A Culture of Parenting

A Culture of Parenting

What does it mean to be a parent? For many of us, myself included, it is a time to hit the books, the internet, and research articles. To read, research, and plunder through articles that tell us exactly how to handle situations with our children and adopt our parenting style is, for many of us, what it means to be a good parent. The what to say, how to say it, how to react, how to utilize time-outs, how to shame ourselves for thinking time-outs were ever a good idea, how to make our child apologize, how to shame ourselves for ever “making” our child say “I’m sorry” when he didn’t mean it! We, like no other parents before our time, live in a world of a wealth of information, opinions, scripts, groups, and philosophies – at our fingertips thanks to the internet’s never ending source of information. Most are well-meaning and actually do help us become better parents, which no doubt serves our children well.

I recently purchased a Time Magazine Special Edition entitled “The Science of Childhood.” Different from other reading materials I’ve read to help me be a “better” parent, this magazine is about the child. That’s it – growth and development of the child. In the introduction, Bryan Walsh gives a description of our society as being one that is “obsessed over how to raise our children, warring over our strategies…yet in focusing on parenting, we sometimes risk losing site of the children and the extraordinary adventure they live each day” (p. 4). That was the only mention of parenthood in the magazine, and what a giant and important point the author made.

We are a culture built on success and it has gotten us far as individuals and as a society. Therefore, it’s not surprising that we have placed such an incredible focus on “succeeding” in our relatively new roles, now as parents. And, yes…I know that by focusing on bettering ourselves as parents, we are focusing our goals of raising a child. But, is it possible to become so caught up in our parenting philosophy, we can’t see the forest for the trees? If we become so detail oriented as to how we are going to interact with and respond to our children – and I’ve done it and still do it – is it possible that we may miss the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the splendor of childhood, with them?

But, how do we put parenting philosophies, rules, and approaches aside? Should we throw them out the window and just wing this, the most important thing we’ve ever done and will ever do? No. Of course educating ourselves on the thing we are doing every day is a smart move on all our parts. I’m talking about intentionally putting it aside – for a moment, for an hour, for a day and jump into childhood with our kids. Just play and enjoy – whatever it is they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be something that’s pre-arranged or carefully planned. Create something wonderful with sidewalk chalk (you, all by yourself), have a race, jump on the trampoline, fetch rings at the bottom of the pool, do a cannon ball, slide down the slide, swing on the swing, play house, build something out of Legos, play a video game, climb a tree! And, for crying out loud phoneless, by the way!

As Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Through play, we join into and become a part of our child’s childhood. Through play, we might become distracted by nothing and purely enveloped in imagination and fun – what a privilege and something we are able to do at two short time periods in our lives. We did it as children. Now’s our chance to replay and relive that experience through our own children – what a gift and an honor to do it again – not only for our children, but for ourselves too.

 

Lonely mom blog post 1

The world wide web needs another Moms’ Blog, right? A superwoman who boasts about feeding her children only things that are grown in her backyard’s organic soil. You didn’t think you’d get past the second sentence of a mom’s blog without reading the word “organic,” did you?

I’ve been reading articles for moms, by moms, for a little over six years now. Once I get to the end, I realize that there was something in the post that just didn’t resonate well with me. For example, the “why I didn’t send my child to kindergarden at age (‘fill in the blank’) thousand-word summaries that come across newsfeeds every year.  I get it – some children are ready, in one form or another, to start Kindergarten and some are not. But, do we have to join a club or hit a like to make friends who feel whichever way we do, in an effort to validate these excruciatingly difficult decisions we are faced with, all of us, as parents?  I mean, we are only making decisions for our children that could impact them for a lifetime, right?

While it’s interesting to get a variety of personal perspectives on common parenting concerns and choices, I think too much information can leave us feeling lonely (“well, obviously I’m not going to fit in with the organic dirt eating children’s moms”). We read these things, information from people all over the world who haven’t any more of a clue than we do on a subject they’ve maybe put a lot of thought into, but not a lot of research into (unless you consider Facebook posts research and sometimes I do!). And, nowadays, platforms for opinions are being handed out like peanuts on an airplane. So, through the grapevine of sharing and reposting, it looks like these wonder-moms come in droves and all attended the same parenting conference for which the rest of us missed the memo.

Until finally, at this very blog spot, the lonely mom fits in for once. Where she doesn’t fit in. Just like in the 1964 film, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the misfit toys!
This is a blog for the mom who’s not from here. For the mom who doesn’t work and for the mom who doesn’t stay-at-home. For the mom who doesn’t homeschool, private school, public school, or unschool. For the mom who’s alone at the park. For the mom who’s kids have bit into a cheeto or chewed up an M&M, food-dye and all (even if it was at a birthday party and you didn’t know ’til after, you’re safe here). For the mom who goes through her social media newsfeeds, realizing that the invitation to that birthday party or baby shower (oh wait, there was no invitation – ouch!)… It’s for the mom who struggles with sleep at 2 a.m., not because you didn’t follow the “why you should (or was it shouldn’t) let your kid cry-it-out” post but because your worried that maybe you’re not doing some of this “right.”
But, what is “right” anyway? My suspicion is that nobody knows…none of us have been doing this long enough to be experts and there’s no PhD in Mothering. We do the best we can with what we know at the time and sometimes we find a like-minded friend or friends who can support us along the way. And sometimes we don’t.

Nonetheless, one thing is for sure – you’re never alone when you’re child is snuggling with you, or in front of you swinging at the park. You’re never alone when you’re building a tower as tall as you can, or wrapping wooden train tracks around couch legs and coffee tables.

We are all as alone as we want to be. But, when we have a small child, we always have a friend. Someone who loves us. Someone who wants to hang-out. Someone who thinks we are doing things utterly and completely right, especially when we’re with them.